Overview of Cairo

Geography of Cairo

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Images of Egypt bring forth thoughts of camels, endless sand, souqs, Pharaohs, the Pyramids, and a far off and exotic land. The many achievements of the ancient Egyptians have deeply impacted our modern world. They were masters quarrying, surveying and construction techniques; a system of mathematics; a practical and effective system of medicine; irrigation systems and agricultural production; the first known ships, glass technology; new forms of literature; and the earliest known peace treaty. The Egyptian legacy rivals that of the Romans.

Today's Egypt is still ground-breaking. It is the seat of a growing revolution where people have directly taken on a corrupt government and they are working to make a government of the people. Along with this revolutionary spirit, there is a burgeoning artistic scene which is already world famous for its music, film, theater, and TV production. Notable world figures such Nobel Prize winner for Literature Naguib Mahfouz, the acclaimed movie director, Yousef Chahine, the Egyptian actor Omar Sherif, and the Arabic diva Umm Kolthoum all hail from Egypt. They have also made contributions in the fields of science and philosophy with leaders such as Ahmed Hassan Zuweil - winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry, and Sir Magdy Yaacoub - acclaimed surgeon.

Currently, Egypt's impact is primarily felt in the Middle East, but that is set to change. Like a place coming out of the dark ages, Egypt is primed to explode onto the world wide stage.


The Arab Republic of Egypt is located at the juncture of northeastern Africa and southwestern Asia, spanning both continents. The country is slightly more than three times the size of New Mexico with a total land area of 2,665 km. It has 2,450 km of coastline and is bounded on the north by the Mediterranean Sea, on the east by Gaza and Israel, on the south by Sudan, and on the west by Libya.

Apart from the Nile River, the world's second longest river, the majority of Egypt's landscape is a desert. Egypt includes parts of the Sahara Desert and of the Libyan Desert.

Egypt is one of the most populous countries in Africa and the Middle East with over 81 million people. Most of its people are crowded around the country's life source, the all important Nile River.

Time Zone

The Egyptian time zone is EET - Eastern European Time (UTC/GMT +2 hours). Egypt does not adjust for Daylight Savings Time.


Throughout Egypt, the days are generally warm or hot, and the nights are cool.
Summer temperatures in Egypt average between 80 °F (27 °C) and 90 °F (32 °C) with temperatures up to 109 °F (43 °C) common on the Red Sea coast.
Winter temperatures average between 55 °F (13 °C) and 70 °F (21 °C).

The blowing winds can create sand dunes of more than 100 feet (30 m) high. A steady wind from the northwest moderates temperature variation along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The khamaseen is a wind that blows from the south in the spring, carrying sand and dust in its path. As a result, temperatures in the desert often soar to more than 100 °F (38 °C).

On the whole, Egypt does not receive much rainfall except in the winter months. South of Cairo, rainfall averages only around 2 to 5 mm (0.1 to 0.2 in) per year and many years pass with no rain at all. However, on a very thin strip of the northern coast the rainfall can total as much as 410 mm (16 in). Snow falls on Sinai's mountains and some of the north coastal cities. Every year, there is predictable flooding of the Nile, known as The Gift of the Nile. This is important in replenishing Egypt's soil. This flooding provides the region bordering the Nile with a the means to maintain consistent harvests throughout the year.


Cairo is located in northern Egypt, known as Lower Egypt. This is 165 kilometers (100 miles) south of the Mediterranean Sea and 120 kilometers (75 miles) west of the Gulf of Suez and Suez Canal. Cairo is the capital of Egypt and the largest city in both the Arab world and Africa. It is the 16th largest metropolitan area in the world with more than 17 million people.

Due to the aridity of Egypt's climate, population centers are concentrated along the narrow Nile Valley and Delta. This means that approximately 99 percent of the population uses only about 5.5 percent of the total land area.

The city is aligned along the Nile River, at the point where the river breaks into two branches, flowing into the low-lying Nile Delta region. The city of Cairo consists of the east bank of the river and two islands for a total area of 453 square kilometers (175 sq miles). The greater Cairo metropolitan area extends away from the Nile in all directions.


Cairo experiences very hot and humid summers that last from May to October, with the winter months running from November to April. The city proper receives only about one centimeter of rain annually. Between February and April, occasional sandstorms called khamsin are swept in by hot winds from the Sahara Desert. Beach lovers flock to the Mediterranean and the Red Sea, which also provide diving and snorkeling for more adventurous types.

For up-to-date weather information, consult Cairo Weather.


Nicknamed "The City of a Thousand Minarets", Cairo is a beautiful example of Islamic architecture. Bridges cross the Nile at several points in and around the city, linking Cairo to the suburbs of Giza and Imbabah. The world famous Giza Plateau, home of the the Great Pyramid of Giza, lies immediately west of the city. The site of the ancient Egyptian city of Memphis with its necropolis of Saqqara is located approximately 11 miles (18 km) south of Cairo.


Westward movement of the Nile has resulted in changes to the city format. The newer parts of the city (Garden City, Downtown Cairo, and Zamalek) are located closest to the riverbank. The areas, which are home to most of Cairo's embassies, are surrounded on the north, east, and south by the older parts of the city. Old Cairo is located south of the center and the heart of Egypt's Coptic Christian community. The Boulaq district lies in the northern part of the city and is a major industrial center. Western Cairo is more modern with wide boulevards, open spaces, and modern architecture. Northern and extreme eastern parts of Cairo are the most recent additions to the city. The western bank of the Nile is commonly included within the urban area of Cairo, but it composes the city of Giza and the Giza Governorate. The growing suburb of Giza has a population of 2.7 million.

  • Midan Tahrir - Midan El Tahrir lies in the center of modern Cairo. It consists of big hotels, transport hubs, and the Egyptian Museum.
  • Midan Ramses - Contains Cairo's main railway station and a burgeoning retail and accommodation zone.
  • Garden City - A suburb close to the city center and the Corniche el-Nil, a good option for centered accommodation.
  • Islamic Cairo - The very center of historic Cairo, this district is east of downtown. It contains the Citadel, Mohamed Ali Mosque, Khan el Khalili (the main bazaar or souq), historic mosques and medieval architecture, as well as some of Cairo's Turkish baths or Hammams.
  • Old Cairo - Located south of downtown, includes Coptic Cairo, Fustat (Cairo's historical kernel) and Rhoda Island.
  • Dokki and Mohandeseen - Located on the west bank of the Nile, this district has upscale restaurants, shopping, and accommodation.
  • Gezira and Zamalek - Upscale suburb on the Gezira island in the Nile. This is a chic area with hotels, the Cairo Tower, the Opera House, as well as shopping, restaurants, cafes, and accommodation.
  • Giza - This sprawling western district overlooks the Nile. It holds the Giza Zoo and the Giza Governorate contains the Haram district where the Giza Pyramids are located.
  • Heliopolis - This is an older district where the elite live .
  • Nasr City - A new district, it contains City Stars, Cairo's biggest and most modern shopping mall. The airport is actually located a bit further east of this area out in the desert near Masaken Sheraton
  • Ma'adi - A quiet residential suburb, it caters largely to foreign expatriates. It is in the southeast of Cairo.

Update 4/12/2011

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